Armani stood in her kitchen, hands at akimbo. Moping around the walls and cabinets closely, raising her hands to feel each utensil as she began to move across. Like she was trying to study each’s peculiar color, as if to replace any pinch peeled off- all with her unperturbed eyes, that held a tiny tear beside each corners.
“The quickest method is the 1-2-3-4. Never forget; a cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour & lastly, four eggs.” Armani remembered as Kaka sternly instructed on her first baking class, just two days after she arrived Ibadan to live with her.
Armani’s grandmother, Kaka, was a renowned baker and ‘Pastry Chef’ as she did often referred to herself when she had clients and foreigners around. Even as age had bounded her to a wheel chair, she still owned and operated a bakery that was located in the heart of Ibadan. You could safely say, ‘Hadjia Mairo’s Bakery’ was one of the most popular bakeries around. She fondly told Armani stories of how she got her skills from cookery books she found lying around in Sister Celine’s room, the white missionary that came to Ibadan in the early days. And how she passed on the passion to her daughter, Hadjia Hassanat. Her infectiously blissful hardworking daughter. She would smile wildly, when she talked about her, revealing the small cute dimples around her cheeks. Right before the smile fades, replaced with dull eyes and a gloomy face, like she had just been hit by a sad reality.
JALEEL, Abuja 1993
Targets acquired. Alhaji Abeeb and Hadjia Hassanat Danjuma
Finish them off this night.”
Jaleel stared at the message on the piece of paper Jaja had sent to him, once again.
‘Finish them off this night’ he read out, loudly.
‘This night’ he repeated, eyes fixated on the message. It had been two weeks and he understood what that meant, everything. . .everything was at stake! He picked up the remainder items left in the package. The pistol, photo of target, eight hundred naira upfront payment and another message, written on a piece, tucked beneath every item,
‘Remember the deal, I know where your mother lives.’
He picked up the photo and examined the richly dressed couple, they looked quite too happy posing for a random shot in their sitting room, he thought. Although, some strange thing about them made him think about the life he longed for; a dark skinned voluptuous beautiful wife, two little girls, and maybe a boy, if he comes along. All gathered round in his large sitting room, listening to night tales from his mother.
“My dear Mama”, he sighed “This is for you”, as he gave the photo one last look before placing it and all other items but the pistol, back inside the box.
Steadily, he began to get fully clothed in all black. Trousers, shirt, face cap, and settling with coffee brown on his feet, as he guardedly placed the pistol somewhere within him.
* * *
Armani could hear a voice scream, breaking her off her deep thoughts about Kaka and her mother. She quickly put away all the baking and kitchen utensils she had been cleaning. She does that every time, every time she was lost in thought, every time she blacked out, she cleaned, she baked, “it helps me feel closer to my mothers,” she explained to Dr Ahmed when he asked about how she copes on one of her routine visits.
Moving closer to the bedroom, the voice had steadied into wails. Armani wiped her face and made her way towards the room. She should be in tears for her dead husband, she should be in tears for being the killer, or perhaps, she could still make her way out of the house without anyone noticing. Rather, she found herself walking towards the room she had shared with Jaleel for the past three years. Where now, a strange woman who had just called her husband ‘hers’, laid.
“I told you to leave that witch!”
“Oh my God!, Jaleel please don’t do this to me!” Anita continued.
Armani could see her in full view now. Light skinned and slender, too pale for anything close to what Jaleel would have liked. Well, the Jaleel she thought she knew. Her perfect Husband, who cried with her when she talked about her parents. The one who definitely did not have a mistress.
Just as she was about to step into the room, she felt a hand touch her,
She turned to see Udo, their guardman.
“Ssssshhh” he whispered. Signaling her to be quiet and come along with him.
* * *
It had been thirty minutes, And yet, no words had passed between Armani and Udo. Armani, who more shocked than scared, stared outside the window of the on-going Uber they nestled in, right outside the gates of their home.
“Maram”, Udo called, reaching out his hands towards Armani. He cupped her left hands into his, squeezing them, and giving off an assuring smile. Even as, she sat there numb, like she could not hear or feel Udo’s attempt at comfort, or was it something else? She tried to understand.
“Did he see me do it” she thought.
“He couldn’t have. He was at the gate.” she wrestled.
“Or is this just a plan to get me to the police?”
“No, it can’t be.”
“I have been nothing but nice to Udo. In fact, he couldn’t have seen anything” she continued.
“If he tries anything stupid. He will go down for this.” She concluded.
Armani finally turned to Udo, smiling lightly and slowly letting go of his grip. He in turn smiled back, taking his initial position at the far end of the car, rather than hip-to-hip with Armani.
And just as she was about to say the words that had burdened her the whole time, she looked down and saw it.
Her purple laced skirt, the one Jaleel had surprised her with at their last date night, was now stained with a familiar liquid. One of the color red.
Writer : Amina (thedoublequeen) . Visit Blog